Time to change gear: autumn is here and I want to explore more of the wonderful northern Italian repertoire, which I think lends itself better to this time of the year.
This vegetable terrine hails from Piemonte, or, to be precise, from this tremendous book about Piedmeontese cooking: if you read Italian, do get it. This is not your typical recipe driven cookery book but one where the emphasis is on food as culture.
it is a layered affair of cooked chopped vegetables, with each vegetable layer enriched with eggs and béchamel sauce: an excellent example of that Italian bourgeois , Sunday lunch cooking, now almost disappeared. Sformato autunnale di tre verdure (layered autumn three vegetable terrine from Piemonte)
8 to 10 portions
½ kg spinach – net weight
50 g butter
50 g grated parmesan
½ kg fennels (or cardoons or courgettes or celery) (Stefano: or broccoli) – net weight
½ kg carrots – net weight
salt and pepper
For the béchamel sauce
50 g butter
500 ml full fat milk
50 g plain flour
freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper
1 23 cm x 13 cm x 7 cm loaf pan, buttered and lined with parchment paper in such a away that the the paper peaks the rim of the pan by few centimeters/or use two smaller tins
Steam the vegetables separately, cool them down and chop them finely.
Sauté them separately in a little butter to dry them as much as possible.
Meanwhile, make a thick béchamel sauce with the above ingredients and add it equally to the three vegetables mixtures.
To each and every one of the vegetable mixtures, add 2 eggs, one third of the parmesan, some pepper and some grated nutmeg. Let the mixtures cool down a little.
Spoon the vegetable mixtures into the loaf pan, creating a three layer terrine. Tap the loaf gently to disperse any air bubble.
Cook in a bain marie in the oven (200 C°) for approximately 45 minutes.
Let it cool down for at least one hour before un moulding.
It is best eaten warm.
Giovanni Goria suggests serving the sformato with one of the following:
a cheese fondu with truffles, in winter (ah!..if only…)
a thin cheese sauce with chopped ceps, in autumn (I think he means: a thin cheese fondu with ceps have been cooked in olive oil, garlic and parsley), in autumn
some funghi trifolati, i.e. mushrooms cooked with oil, garlic and parsley (and this is what I did), in autumn
a thin sauce made with sieved cooked tomatoes and roasted peppers; this is then diluted with a béchamel sauce made with some good beef broth; this is in turn pureed, adding parmesan and basil, in summer
peas and broadband, cooked with new season onions and prosciutto crudo, to which some eggs have been added and scrambled (Goria says: “una imbrogliata di pisellini novelli e favette su un trito di cipollina e prosciutto crudo”, now: I do not understand what he means by “imbrogliata”, which in Italian cookery terms refers to either a dish of vegetables cooked in oil to which eggs are added and scrambled or to a mixed vegetable thin soup; I do not know if he means: vegetables and eggs or to a simple vegetables cooked to a soupy finish
chicken livers cut up and saluted in chopped onion and butter, finished off with Marsala (“fegatini alla Cavour”, Chicken liver Cavour style), any time of the year
I actually think that this already rich terrine would be better if served unadorned.
I used spinach mixed with chards, carrots and courgettes. The courgette layer was perhaps a little too delicate for my liking and next time I will go for broccoli (or, in winter, for Jerusalem artichokes). Parsnips would work too. The carrot layer was very good but it could be replaced by a pumpkin layer. I am not sure about using celery (too watery). I am no expert on cardoons: never cooked them (I have always found cleaning them very boring)
With the above quantities I made 1 large terrine filling the pan to the brim: Goria says that one could make two smaller terrines instead.
Bain marie cooking: the water must be hot but not boiling. To be safe, this is how you proceed: bring the oven to the right temperature, place the loaf pan in a larger pot or tin, place this in the oven, ONLY NOW add the hot water, up to three quarters of the height of the tin.
The terrine kept few days in the fridge: reheat it gently (by the slice) when you want to eat it. I did find in fact that the texture improved after a 24 hr rest in the fridge: next time I will make the terrine, I will let it cool down in the pan and I will refrigerate it overnight. I will serve it the next day, after warming it up in a gentle oven and turning it out of the mould.